The preferences of visitors to selected forest areas for tourism and recreational purposes
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Questionnaire surveys were conducted from July 1st to August 15th, 2012 in forests near Gołdap, Białowieża, Pisz, Kraśnik, Warsaw and Zakopane with 335 respondents – 146 residents (43.6%) and 189 tourists (56.4%). The respondents declared that they visit forests throughout the year for various purposes, most often with family or friends and most frequently for the recreational activity of walking. They typically spend about three hours in the forest during a single visit. Respondents perceived the most important functions of the forest as a place where plants and animals live, as well as a place for recreation. In their view, the state budget should be a source of co-financing the recreational management of the forest. Only a small number of respondents (27.5%) would be willing to allocate a portion of their income for recreational forest management. According to the respondents, the most important elements needed in the forest to improve its quality for tourism are information signs and litter bins. Respondents perceive the greatest threats to the forest from tourism to be vandalism, automobiles driving into the forest and wildlife disturbance, whereas the greatest threats to tourists were reported to be biting and stinging animals (snakes, ticks and mosquitoes) and the possibility of getting lost. Respondents indicated clean air, peace and quiet, as well as the ability to harvest wild fruits, plants and mushrooms as the greatest advantages of using the forest for recreation. A large proportion of respondents admitted that they would like to use the services of professional foresters, especially for nature walks and health related purposes, as well as to educate children and youth about nature and the forest.
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